Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Seductive Malevolence: In Defense of Evil - A Response by Tara Fox Hall

I'm very happy this week to welcome the wonderful Tara Fox Hall and let her air her controversial views on the way evil is portrayed in modern fiction.  Over to Tara.

My good friend and fellow author Jenny Twist makes the argument that looking for reasons for true evil, as in mass murderers, takes the emphasis away from the victims. I agree that we need to acknowledge the evil in our world. I also agree that evil in our society is being downplayed from a simple and straightforward nemesis of good into a more sophisticated concept, usually of a flawed human’s words or actions.  Any rationale given in defense of human evil gives no basis for a lessening of punishment, a kinder view of evil men or women, or acceptance of their deeds.  I am no friend of evil, of serious criminals, and a strong believer in capital punishment. So why do I find myself cheering on Hannibal Lecter? 

I addressed this issue once before as part of a paper co-written by my husband, “The Allure of the Serial
Killer,” published in Serial Killers: Being and Killing.  The conclusion was that our society is so beset by rules and regulations that we embrace the freedom offered by the sort of antihero that regularly breaks them with aplomb, such as Walter White, the hero of TV series Breaking Bad. Even classic villains such as The Wicked Witch of the West and Maleficent are now being transformed into more than an antagonist we love to hate. Simple black-to-the-soul evil is easy to recognize and abhor, but is almost never found in real life. Literature also has no power to physically hurt us. Realistic evil is complex and potentially deadly, which makes it much more dangerous. If we learn from fiction about evil—and how to deal with it—wouldn’t it be better to have truly complex villains, so we are not swayed by the intricacies of mortal monsters when we run across them in real life?

Enter the most famous evil seducers in fiction, the vampires of today’s literature. This new century predator has become a romantic hero. He’s a born killer who can’t help his desires—and might not even want to. He’s got a gift for one-liners, a ruthless possessive nature, and a mile-wide black streak in his otherwise white soul to keep the long nights interesting. I say bring him on! Who wants a simple monster doomed to die at the end of the tale, or a boring hero too perfect to feel comfortable with? I want my rogue villain who can seduce me with a single look, a few choice softly spoken words, and the brush of fangs in his passionate kiss, even as he saves me from the banality of my everyday life. 

About Tara Fox Hall
Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, erotica, horror, suspense, action-adventure, children’s stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. All of her published children’s stories to date are free reads on

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Domingo's Angel by @JennyTwist1 - Now relaunched.

One of the best novels I've read in recent years, Domingo's Angel by Jenny Twist was relaunched (with a lovely revamped cover) this weekend after the author regained her publishing rights and was able to produce this independently - at a much lower cost than her previous publisher charged. Oh the virtues of independent publishing!

Here's how I reviewed it after reading it for the first time:

Jenny Twist is a wonderfully talented storyteller and Domingo’s Angel weaves a spell of enchantment around the reader from start to finish.  Although set in the 1950s (when the English woman, Angela, first arrives in the remote mountain village of Amendillas), there is nonetheless a timeless quality to the story.  Through seamless flashbacks, the narrative takes us through the dreadful days of the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s despotic rule, then forwards into a happier, hopeful future.  

The small, self-sufficient community seems untouched by the outside world and, on the surface looks like paradise. However, every character has been affected and deeply scarred by past tragedies and each nurses his or her own secret pain.  Widows, who have long ago stopped weeping and have put away their smiles - seemingly forever, are the backbone of this community now devoid of men of a certain generation.

The English Angela is escaping from her own tragic secrets, but her healing process begins when she meets Domingo who worships her as his angel, then little by little, the healing magic begins to spread.  But it is Rosalba, the excellently–drawn village matriarch, whose complex life-journey really captivates our hearts.  Angela is quick to realise that “Whatever Rosalba thinks today, the village will think tomorrow” and the true love story is the growing bond between these two women, who learn to heal each other. 

I read the latter half of the story almost entirely through misty eyes as the main characters grew larger than life with every page, unfolding their astonishing stories to me like good friends trusting me with their heartfelt secrets.  When I reached the final page, I felt bereft and lonely, though completely satisfied that I had left them all in very good hands.  Domingo’s Angel is a story I will certainly read again and this author goes straight to the top of my favourites list.

Maybe now's the time for me to dig it out and settle down for a wonderful re-read.  I recommend it to anyone and everyone who hasn't yet read it.  I gave it five stars because I couldn't go higher.  I'd love to know what you think.

Author Jenny Twist left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and an escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford. 
In 2001 she and her husband moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.
Jenny's other published works include: Take One At Bedtime,The Mantequero series, Bedtime Shadows (with Tara Fox Hall) and dozens of short stories.

Domingo's Angel is available from:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shades of Evil - With Guest Authors Jenny Twist and Tara Fox Hall

Jenny Twist
Tara Fox Hall
Although I don't write horror, I do enjoy introducing a little wickedness into my stories when appropriate. Why should creating evil characters be more fascinating than creating good ones? I'm not entirely sure, but they are. My ears pricked up, therefore, at a debate on the subject of evil between two author friends whose excellent work fills me with admiration, and I persuaded them to 'go public' and air their views on my blog.

These two great authors are Jenny Twist and Tara Fox Hall, who often collaborate on chilling horror anthologies, as well as writing individual longer works - and I've never yet been disappointed by any of these.

Tara said that what sparked the debate was a review by a U.S. college professor [Gregory Alles] of Robert Ellwood's book: Tales of Darkness: The Mythology of Evil, that claimed:  “We learn more about evil and how to deal with it from stories than we do from philosophical analysis…life [itself] is…a set of stories.” This had Tara pondering what, if this is true, does the recent shift in fiction toward making the usual villain of the story into its hero do to our society? Should we be worried that the perceived line between evil and good is not just blurring, but disappearing?

Jenny Twist's response to this is:

See No Evil?

In recent years there seems to have been a worrying shift in people’s attitude to evil. We try to empathise with mass murderers, child abusers, serial killers. We look for reasons. They had a difficult childhood. Perhaps they were themselves abused. They have never been loved. They were dominated by a sadistic lover.
Well, it doesn’t wash with me. It’s irrelevant why they do these evil deeds. They have to be stopped. They have to be caught and locked up and never let out again.
Lesley Ann Downey
And don’t talk to me about rehabilitation. Talk to the mother of Lesley Ann Downey, whose ten year old daughter was tortured to death by the notorious Moors Murderers. (Just to prove they really were evil and not just misunderstood, they recorded her screams so they could play it back later for pleasure.) Talk to the families of the 909 people who died in Jonestown. See if they think rehabilitation is a good idea. Or maybe we should think about releasing Charles Manson. He’s been in prison a long time and he’s probably sorry by now.

Let’s not acknowledge that there is evil in the world. Let’s pretend it can all be put right.

Ian Brady

Myra Hindley

Charles Manson

This same downplaying of evil seems to be seeping insidiously into vampire literature. Vampires have become poor, misunderstood creatures who are only trying to earn a crust – or, in their case, a bucket of human blood. It is not, after all, their fault that they are vampires. They were the victims once.
And so now we have sexy vampires who are tender lovers. We have vampires with human emotions; vampires who are co-operating with humans and making a living in the world. We even have, God help us, sparkly vampires.
Don’t make me laugh. Vampires are parasites, feeding on human beings. They are serial killers. It doesn’t matter what they were before or if they were victims themselves. They are vampires now and nobody in their right mind would want one for a lover.
Real, believable vampires should be evil - properly evil. Not this namby-pamby evil which can be explained away and forgiven, but deep-down, black to the soul evil.
My absolute favourite vampire of all time is Kurt Barlow in Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot’. He is ancient, clever, devious . . . and evil to the core. Someone you can really enjoy hating. That’s my kind of vampire.

I hope you'll return next week to hear Tara's response to Jenny's post.

More about author Jenny Twist:

Jenny Twist left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and an escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford. 
In 2001 she and her husband moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.
Jenny's published works include: Take One At Bedtime, Domingo's Angel, The Mantequero series, Bedtime Shadows (with Tara Fox Hall) and dozens of short stories.